In 2017, brothers Alan and Jonathan Hines were on vacation in Copenhagen, and a lightbulb went off when they happened upon a food stall packed with locals enjoying pints of beer along with smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches served on squares of rye bread. Smørrebrød (pronounced like “s’more-brood”) is, traditionally, a way of using up leftovers, but it’s lately been showing up on restaurant menus around Scandinavia, getting chefier treatments. The Hineses, who had already been toying with the idea of opening a bar back in Maine, decided to make smørrebrød their bread and butter.
Trudy Bird’s Ølbar
424 Walnut Hill Rd., North Yarmouth. 207-489-9004.
The menu also includes a salad of shaved brussels sprouts, a pork-patty sandwich with Danish gravy, and a hot dog topped with remoulade, pickles, and fried onions.
In addition to beers and aquavits, a selection of natural wines and local ciders is also on hand.
The brothers started hosting smørrebrød parties for friends at home as they patiently looked around for the right location. In 2021, Stones Cafe & Bakery, in North Yarmouth, came up for sale. The old café building would become the restaurant, while a large adjacent barn could host events. After a year of renovations, they opened Trudy Bird’s Ølbar (named for their maternal grandmother, plus the Danish word for a beer bar). The interior has Scandi vibes, with a mix of rustic wide-plank hardwood floors, a shiplap-covered bar, and mod furnishings, like matte-black light fixtures, camel-colored leather barstools, and accent wallpaper that looks like a murmuration of swallows. It’s what the Danish would probably call hygge, all snug and comfy and convivial.
The menu is a smorgasbord of smørrebrøds. You can approach them as bar snacks, or you can build a meal out of them. One smørrebrødfeatured classic Scandinavian flavors: cold-smoked salmon, chopped-up hard-boiled egg, and pickled beets. The fresh, earthy notes of egg and pickled beet nicely complemented the rich, oily salmon. Another smørrebrød was topped with crunchy, juicy fried chicken and creamy, dill-inflected kohlrabi slaw. Against the dense, nutty rye bread, it played like a Nordic riff on Southern chicken and waffles — the Hineses, who relocated to Maine a decade ago, are Georgia natives.
Alan, a chef with 25 years of restaurant experience, is responsible for baking and plating the bread. He might top it with local seafood, like fried hake (with sauce gribiche, a sort of herbaceous, caper-y tartar sauce) or cold-smoked haddock (with fennel cream). Another option was fried pimento cheese and tomato, nodding again to the brothers’ Southern roots.
In Denmark, the Hineses often saw smørrebrød accompanied by aquavit, a Scandinavian liquor, and they opted to carry that custom across the Atlantic. Their bar offers several imported brands of the typically caraway- or dill-infused spirit, but they also make some of their own flavors in-house, from strawberry to brown butter. I’m not much for traditional aquavits, but I tried the brown-butter version and loved it. It put me in mind of warm apples and buttered rum. Beer drinkers will find 20 taps pouring top-notch local options — an Oxbow lager, an Allagash sour, and so on — as well as some Euro specialties, like Belgian quad or a German smoked beer.
The food and drink at Trudy Bird’s will probably hit some new notes for many Maine restaurant goers. Smørrebrød was certainly new to me, but it also seems perfectly matched to the state’s culinary DNA. In these northern climes, there’s no going wrong with hearty breads, belly-warming drinks, and an atmosphere conducive to good company. Now, we just need to add a new word to our local toasting vocabulary: “Skål!”
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